Bookshelfie ~ Empty Shelf Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an updated pic of this year’s bookshelf (for the Empty Shelf Challenge). Here’s an updated “bookshelfie” after a couple months and a few INSPY reads have stacked up!

Have you read any of these titles? What did YOU think?
Bookshelfie Update for Empty Shelf


Counting down from the latest:

#28 The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

#27 A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

#26 Stuck Together by Mary Connealy

#25 Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

#24 Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

#23 The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#22 A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#21 A Place in His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

#20 Duchess by Susan Mary Warren (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#19 Though My Heart is Torn by Joanne Bischof (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#18 While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad

#17 Love’s Awakening by Laura Frantz (INSPYs Historical Romance shortlist title)

#16 The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

#15 Lonestar Homecoming by Colleen Coble (audiobook)

#14 Divergent by Veronica Roth

#13 Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry (not pictured, on loan to a friend)

#12 A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

#11 A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley

#10 A Heart’s Rebellion by Ruth Axtell

#9 Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

#8 Moonlight Masquerade by Ruth Axtell (ebook)

#7 George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

#6 It Had to Be You by Susan May Warren

#5 Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren (ebook)

#4 The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

#3 The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd (ebook)

#2 The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

#1 Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael K. Reynolds



Review: “Stuck Together” by Mary Connealy

Sometimes it’s good to read a story that is funny and endearing with realistic characters. Stuck Together by Mary Connealy is one like that. It’s her third and final book in the “Trouble in Texas” series, though it could be read as a standalone story, too. (For my review of “Fired Up” in this same series, click here)

18469501Synopsis from Goodreads: Tina Cahill, newly arrived from the East, is determined to get the saloon in Broken Wheel, Texas, closed for good. To that end, she pickets outside the place every afternoon. Unfortunately, so far no one has paid any attention.

Vince Yates earned the nickname “Invincible Vince” because of his reputation for letting absolutely nothing stop him. Not his tyrant of a father. Nor the injuries he suffered in the Civil War. Nor the fact that he is Broken Wheel’s only attorney and sheriff yet has no law degree.

But Vince is about to face his biggest challenge yet: his past has just caught up with him. His father, mother, and the sister he didn’t know he had show up in Broken Wheel without warning. His father is still a schemer. His mother is suffering signs of dementia. And his surprise sister immediately falls for one of Vince’s best friends. Vince has a lot of people to take care of, and Tina doesn’t approve of how he’s handling any of them. But with almost all the other men in town married off, Vince finds himself stuck with feisty Tina over and over again. Of course, Tina is the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, so if he could just get her to give up her causes, he might go ahead and propose. But he’s got one more surprise coming his way: Tina’s picketing at the saloon has revealed a dark secret that could put everyone Vince loves in danger.

Vince Yates finds himself in circumstances out of his control – he’s not used to being helpless. He’s an in-charge type, ready to lead and get through any situation – including corralling Tina as she pickets and badgers citizens who frequent the saloon (but really, he’s just trying to protect her). This results in some very comical mishaps.

Vince must rely on his friends when his father, mother, and unknown sister show up in Broken Wheel. To further complicate things, Vince is the temporary sheriff who has to track down an unknown menace, keep prisoners from escaping jail, and keep an eye on his addled mother.

Tina is feisty, independent, and able to take care of herself. Underneath a tough façade, though, she feels unloved because of her family history. She was orphaned when young, raised by her cold aunt, and now feels like a burden to her brother, Jonas. When she and Vince are attracted to each other, each has his and her reasons for not wanting to have a relationship. His, because he doesn’t want to end up like his mother or father, and hers, because she still feels unlovable.

God has other plans, however, as He shows them the beauty of His provision, second chances, and the power and strength of friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest from Mary Connealy!


Connect with Mary Connealy at her website, on Facebook, or Twitter.

Note: Thank you to Bethany House for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: “Here to Stay” by Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg’s latest release, Here to Stay is at the same time fun and serious -it’s like a cute romantic comedy movie, but with more insight into the lives of the characters and more plot depth. It’s the second in her “Where Love Begins” series.

Let me just tell you how I LOVED this story. It’s the first I’ve read of Melissa’s (I know, I know, I’m reading the series out of order.) I totally understand the small town setting of this book – it’s like mine, news travels fast. It’s such a cute story with characters I feel like I know personally now.  Throw in pop-culture references to Michael Bublé, Bonanza, and Hallmark movies, and I’m hooked.

18652806Autumn Kingsley dreams of a job in Paris, adventure, and just something different from that of her small town life in Whisper Shore. Determined to take care of her responsibilities as the owner of her family’s inn before moving to France, she’s faced with its disrepair and slow business during what should be a great season.

Blake “Blaze” Hunziker, family hotel-owning rival to the Kingsleys, is a nomad and adventurer returned to his hometown in search of peace and a sense of belonging. He’s haunted by his past,  having lived with his own blame and that of others for the events surrounding his older brother’s death. While trying to figure out his place now in his hometown, he finds a job opportunity in planning the upcoming town Christmas festival. With a short time frame to contend with, he enlists the help of Autumn to organize it in exchange for repairs at her inn.

With humor and wit, Autumn and Blake form an unlikely friendship in the midst of their community. (There were moments I did snicker at Blake’s antics.) The only problem is, Blake has finally stopped running from his past just when Autumn is ready to leave and find her future.

This one is such an easy read, with a light, conversational tone. I enjoyed the cast of supportive characters. They are quite charming and add extra meaning and little “life lessons” for both Autumn and Blake along the way.

On a side note, I enjoyed Autumn’s love of books – and used bookstores, and reading groups. I think she and I would have some great book conversations.

As the story progresses, we see Autumn and Blake find a new closeness with God. They each find forgiveness, peace, and purpose in God’s plan on their journeys – though it’s quite the ride getting there with them. It’s a fun ride, and totally worth it. I hope you have the opportunity to read this one. I personally can’t wait to see what’s next from author Melissa Tagg!

Connect with author Melissa Tagg at her website or blog, on Twitter, or Facebook.

Note: THANK-YOU to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Here to Stay Quote

Interview with the Author! Rebecca DeMarino, “A Place In His Heart”

Today, the fabulous Rebecca DeMarino has dropped by to talk about her debut novel, A Place In His Heart. If you haven’t read my thoughts on A Place In His Heart, see my review here. I’m so happy she took the time for this interview!

About A Place In His Heart:

Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Puritan Barnabas Horton is still in love with his deceased wife and needs only a mother for his two young sons. And yet these two very different people with very different expectations will take a leap of faith, wed, and then embark on a life-changing journey across the ocean to the Colonies. Along the way, each must learn to live in harmony, to wait on God, and to recognize true love where they least expect to find it.
This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino’s own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life–and a legacy–in the New World. A Place In His Heart is the first in The Southold Chronicles series.

DeMarino_Rebecca head shotRebecca, what inspired you to write A Place In His Heart (APIHH)?

I grew up listening to my mom’s stories about Barnabas Horton, my ninth great-grandfather and how he came across the pond from England on a ship called The Swallow. When my brother became interested in genealogy, we discovered there was a lighthouse named after Barnabas, located on Long Island. I asked my mom if she’d like to go there, and off we went. There was a lot of interesting information about Barnabas. He was a baker and a widower with two young sons when he met my ninth great-grandmother. But I could find very little about her, and I began to wonder about what dreams and motivation she had, and courage she must have possessed, when she married and then left her family behind for the wilds of Long Island. A few years later, I began writing my first novel in a quest to give her a voice.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with APIHH?

That God is there to hold our hand, no matter what our troubles.  We don’t have to do it alone – all we need to do is ask.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

I would say the dialogue. I had many good resources for the political/religious climate and for the home life/culinary aspects.  But writing the dialect for today’s readers is challenging. You want to convey the feel of the language and for the reader to know what place in time they are, but for modern readers it can get irritating if overdone. Finding the right balance is the challenge!

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies? 

I love to read! And I enjoy gardening and hiking. Travel is a passion of mine and I really like to study genealogy and learn about my past. It’s fun seeing how many of the things I enjoy kind of “run” in my family!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Tough question. Perhaps the 17th century if only to maybe have the chance to get to know my ancestors that I wrote about in A Place In His Heart. But they lived in a pretty harsh world.  Living in the wild west in the 1800’s would be fun – I’d love to be a cowgirl!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Courtney! It was fun!!

A place in his heart cover FINAL

Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview – and for writing a unique and touching novel!

Rebecca DeMarino lives in the Pacific N.W. with her husband Tom, and enjoys travel, hiking,


baking, genealogy and gardening. Her debut novel, A Place in His Heart, is a historical romance


inspired by her ninth great-grandparents, Barnabas and Mary Horton, and is book one of The


Southold Chronicles.


Author Contact Info:

Read a chapter excerpt: Visit here

Like Rebecca on Facebook

Follow Rebecca on Twitter

Add Rebecca to your circles on Google+

Follow Rebecca on Pinterest

Subscribe to Rebecca’s Blog and/or Newsletter

Review: “A Place In His Heart” by Rebecca DeMarino + Blog Tour

(After reading this review, be sure to check out my interview post with author Rebecca DeMarino here!)270194_DeMarino2_FBheader

Rebecca DeMarino’s debut novel, “A Place In His Heart” (Revell Publishers), is a touching work of historical fiction that weaves a true account of the author’s ancestors with a fictionalized tale of their migration to the New World in the 1600s. I’m sharing this review as a part of the current blog tour & giveaway – there’s over $300 worth of prizes available! To participate and enter, visit Rebecca’s blog:

Plot Summary:

Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Puritan Barnabas Horton is still in love with his deceased wife and needs only a mother for his two young sons. And yet these two very different people with very different expectations will take a leap of faith, wed, and then embark on a life-changing journey across the ocean to the Colonies. Along the way, each must learn to live in harmony, to wait on God, and to recognize true love where they least expect to find it.
This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino’s own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life–and a legacy–in the New World.

My thoughts:

The story of Mary and Barnabas is told over several years’ time, cataloging their trials and travels to the uncertainty of the New World. After establishing the characters and their initial relationship, the book jumps months or sometimes years ahead in the story, with a journal-like feel. This fact never takes away from the story or leaves gaps, but instead allows the story to flow while the characters grow. It reveals snippets or snapshots of Mary and Barnabas’ lives settling in to their new relationship and then making the voyage to America – all while Mary longs for Barnabas to truly love her.

Mary clings to her faith as she finds her place in her marriage to Barnabas and as a new mother to Joseph and Benjamin. Traveling to the New World is arduous, dangerous, and requires that they leave behind their parents and relatives. It is a great sacrifice and commitment on their part, to join in with their fellow man and establish a community in the New World. Mary and Barnabas’ main purpose in leaving is to escape the mounting religious persecution of the “non-conformers”, who simply with to read the Bible for themselves and follow God’s Word.

My only (slight) issue is that some dialogue felt unnecessary. A few times I noticed, the conversations between the characters could have been shortened by less “telling” and more “showing” – what the characters’ expressions and gestures could communicate instead of speaking. This in no way took away from the message of the story, however, and the beauty of God’s provision through trials.271448_DeMarino_Pin2

This story emphasizes the importance of faith, perseverance, and trust. It shows that God’s love for us is immeasurable, and that He can work through circumstances that feel impossible. Rebecca’s author’s notes at the end of the book enhance the story. It’s so awesome that Mary and Barnabas were her real ancestors. She was able to research and learn their stories (mainly Barnabas’) before transforming it into this novel. I look forward to what’s next in The Southold Chronicles series!

Note: Thank you to the author for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

For more on APIHH, connect with the author:

Read a chapter excerpt: Visit here

Like Rebecca on Facebook

Follow Rebecca on Twitter

Add Rebecca to your circles on Google+

Follow Rebecca on Pinterest

Subscribe to Rebecca’s Blog and/or Newsletter

Review: “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” by Lori Benton

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton is such an epic, beautiful, and breathtaking story, I feel that my meager review cannot do it justice. But, alas, I shall attempt it.

Tamsen Littlejohn finds herself subject to the schemes of Hezekiah Parrish, her stepfather. He plans for her advantageous marriageThe Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton in post-Revolutionary North Carolina. Paired with his ill treatment of her mother, Tamsen at first attempts to placate the situation with her agreement to consider marrying wealthy Ambrose Kincaid.

As Tamsen begins to suspect there is more to her stepfather’s agreement than she knows, she becomes caught up in some chaotic events. (I don’t want to reveal more!) Unexpectedly finding an ally in the mysterious frontier man Jesse Bird, she takes the opportunity to flee with him to the west through the wild Blue Ridge Mountains. Forced to rely on the kindness of a stranger, Tamsen is guided by Jesse as they make their way through rough country. They must skirt hostile Indians, suspicious settlers, endure the harsh change of seasons in the mountains, and evade Parrish and Kincaid, who are pursuing them vehemently.

Through this journey, Tamsen learns more of the considerate man who’s come to her aid. Jesse Bird, a white man raised by the Shawnee (and now friends to the Cherokee), shows the simplicity of mountain living to Tamsen. As they realize God’s provision and the potential of their relationship, the mystery of Jesse’s past and Tamsen’s pursuers threaten to converge with frontier conflicts in the area, testing the faith and endurance of all involved.

Lori has written an action-packed story, complete with quiet, restful moments that expose the beauty of the wild, untamed – and unsettled – land. Tamsen and Jesse’s journey is an epic story that transports the readers to the mountainous settings of North Carolina and Tennessee. Having family in that region myself, I can attest to unique and often treacherous terrain Lori vividly describes. Her flowing writing style really immerses the reader in the story.

Lori’s inclusion of a piece of forgotten history, the almost 14th State of Franklin, adds an interesting backdrop to Tamsen and Jesse’s stories. In this region, two states were claiming the land, residents — and any applicable taxes– as their own: North Carolina and Franklin. This political unrest combined with the threat of hostile Indians added action, excitement, and tension to the story. And trust me, there already WAS tension with the pursuit of Parrish and Kincaid! Also, some minor historical details add to the story, such as the issue and discussion of slavery, Indian traditions, the displacement of Native Americans, and the expansion of the frontier.

In addition to an “Overmountain” journey, the characters of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn travel on an inward journey, making startling discoveries about their heritages and true desires for the future. It’s delightful to see Tamsen and Jesse’s relationship evolve. What they first thought would be a convenient and comfortable friendship slowly develops into  serious feelings of attraction and love. Also, the mystery surrounding several of the characters’ early lives was cleverly woven throughout the story.

A fitting sentiment conveyed with this story is that the past does have some bearing on our identity, but God’s direction and our decisions determine who we are now, in the present, with the people around us. It’s important that we live in the present, looking toward the future God has for us – and His plans for our good.

I would really love to see this novel as a miniseries. I think it would be FABULOUS! Just seeing Lori Benton’s Pinterest board for the novel has me ready to volunteer as a crew member in the miniseries (are you listening, Hallmark Channel?). I’ve read in friends’ reviews and comments that this novel reminded them of “The Last of the Mohicans” or “Courting Morrow Little” by Laura Frantz (one of my personal faves). I have to agree, in part. But The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn perfectly fits in its own niche among Native-American-influenced-heroes-rescuing-ladies-in-the-wilderness stories. It is certainly one of my new favorites in the historical romance genre!

You can find all kinds of fun extras on Lori’s website, like a link to read the first two chapters of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn and where to find out more about the history behind the State of Franklin. Also, connect with her on her Facebook page here.


“Trust in the Almighty, in His love for you, and you’ll have no need to dread anything He allows to befall you. For with a test, a trial, He gives an equal measure of grace to bear it and the comfort of His fellowship as He strengthens us.” –Lori Benton, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

Note: Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy in exchange for a review! I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Do you have a favorite historical romance novel? Is it set in the same era?

Review: “Healer of Carthage” by Lynne Gentry

(After reading this review, be sure to check out my interview post with author Lynne Gentry here!)

The latest novel from Lynne Gentry, Healer of Carthage, has all of the proper elements for an entertaining plot: an aspiring doctor, Lisbeth, struggling to overcome her mistakes, dealing with uncertain family problems, and uncovering long-hidden family secrets. An aspiring political leader, Cyprian, working to reconcile his newfound Christian faith with the politics and leaders that could destroy it. Throw time travel in to the mix with a 3rd century plague, main characters (and love interests) from different centuries, and you have a thrill-ride of a novel that will keep you turning pages as fast as you can.

Plot Synopsis:HiResHealerCover

First-year medical resident Dr. Lisbeth Hastings uses her father’s bizarre summons to escape her tragic mistake.

While Lisbeth searches the haunted cave of her father’s archaeological dig, she falls through a hidden portal. When the currents of time spew her onto the slave auction block in third century Carthage, her arrival ignites a fierce bidding war.

Unable to escape, Lisbeth becomes the property of Cyprian Thascius, a wealthy Roman enta
ngled with a group of people under siege from political persecution and a deadly plague.

Lisbeth resists using her medical skills to combat the epidemic until she stumbles upon a buried secret. To save her family, she must unite with Cyprian to save Carthage. But every revolutionary step they take in the past threatens their future.

My thoughts:

While torn between finding her way back to the 21st century and helping those she can in Carthage, Lisbeth finds herself caught in the middle of the politics of Cyprian and his clandestine group of Christ-following friends. As Lisbeth and Cyprian see that a solution to many of their problems could lie in joining forces, they begin to discover a love that stretches the boundaries of time. The mystery and secrets Lisbeth and Cyprian uncover in the past could serve to change the future of Rome and the future of Lisbeth’s family.

Lynne has authored a gem of a novel, successfully depicting a modern heroine amidst 3rd century Egypt politics and classes of people. I enjoyed the way she blended bits of modern language and expressions from Lisbeth’s character. Her peers in the 3rd century humorously did not know what to think of this intelligent woman with medical knowledge and an odd vocabulary.

Healer of Carthage exhibits the drama and political quagmires of the Roman Empire through the eyes of Lisbeth, someone foreign to such brutality and customs (think gladiators and the persecution of the early church). Her role in aiding unfortunate innocent people begins to give her character focus and purpose after her failings in modern medicine. With scenes like a dramatic medical thriller, Lisbeth practices “modern medicine” in the 3rd century AND finds help and encouragement in the most unexpected places. Cyprian plays a role in Lisbeths cause, too, and his character grows and matures through the story, as well.

Overall, Healer of Carthage is an exciting, fast-paced drama and love story packed with history, archaeology, and the struggles of a people notorious for their persecution of early Christians. It’s beautiful that these characters discover and renew their faith in God while they witness the strength and sacrifice of love. The only thing I’m NOT happy about is waiting until so long for the next book in The Carthage Chronicles series, Return to Exile!

Find this book on Amazon or Goodreads.

Healer of Carthage Quote

Mini Review of “Divergent” & latest Empty Shelf Challenge Reads, including “Healer of Carthage”

My latest reads this week are Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry and Divergent by Veronica Roth. (They are books 13 and 14 in my Empty Shelf Challenge!) Two TOTALLY different books. I loved them both for different reasons.

Later next week, I’m excited to post a review of Healer of Carthage AND an interview with author Lynne Gentry. She’s just fabulous!
Empty Shelf Reads 13 & 14

Here are my thoughts on Divergent, also posted on Goodreads.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never a dull moment. That sentence best sums up my thoughts on “Divergent”.

It is a skillfully written, fast-paced adventure, exploring themes of bravery, selflessness, sacrifice, and the strength of love. From the beginning, the reader is plunged into the story of Beatrice and her world. Veronica used a proper combination of action and feeling to convey each scene. I loved getting to know the characters through the course of the book.

The only reason I did not give it 5 stars was my dislike of some of the content. Mild profanity, depictions of drinking, and some of the suggestive content cause me to hesitate. I would give it a “PG-13” rating. The violence I expected, but some of the other content I did not, considering its popularity among young teens.

Despite the reasons above, I still thoroughly enjoyed “Divergent” and would recommend it to YA, Dystopian, and Sci-Fi fans alike. Because I typically read Christian or Inspirational fiction, I would caution someone reading “Divergent” to keep in mind that it IS secular fiction.

I definitely plan to finish this series – I can’t wait to see what predicaments Tris gets into next!

View all my reviews on Goodreads


Have you read either of these books? What are your thoughts, from a Christian perspective, on Divergent? Have you seen the movie?

Mini Review: “Moonlight Masquerade” by Ruth Axtell (Empty Shelf #8)

Moonlight Masquerade (Revell Publishers) by Ruth Axtell is a Regency-Era Romance, the first in her “London Encounters” series.

"Moonlight Masquerade" by Ruth Axtell (Empty Shelf #8)

Summary from Ruth Axtell’s website: 

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need–or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess’s butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London’s West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham’s spell. Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, will he do the right thing?

My thoughts:

As Rees attempts to ascertain kind Lady Wexham’s loyalties and find proof of her spying activities, he befriends her. As her true loyalties are uncovered, Rees begins to doubt his own political positions. His efforts to protect Lady Wexham from all sides of the political conflict are admirable and endearing. A sweet and unconventional friendship forms between Lady and butler, though both characters are not all they appear to be. Each character encounters obstacles which result in reliance and trust in God. Overall, I thought Moonlight Masquerade was an entertaining and delightful romance, woven with mystery, suspense, and elements of faith.

You can find out more about author Ruth Axtell at her website.